Frog conservation in Madagascar

This video is called Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) Calling.

From Wildlife Extra:

Silicone implants could play a part in saving one of the world’s smallest and most spectacular frogs

January 2014: Conservationists are trialling a technique to tag a population of 80 golden mantella frogs with a tiny amount of fluorescent silicone gel under the skin on their legs. The hope is that the implants will ultimately enable the identification and tracking of wild populations in their native Madagascar – a move which could help to protect the species.

Dr Gerardo Garcia, Chester Zoo’s curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates said: “The technique of injecting a small coloured implant under the skin has never been attempted on these tiny golden mantella frogs before. However, if it works successfully on our captive animals in the UK, then we’ll be replicating this in the wild in Madagascar.

“In the short-term we hope these tags will allow us to identify each of the groups of frogs – something that’s currently very, very difficult given that they are all about the size of a thumb nail and look the same. At Chester, we need to be able to tell them apart for our own conservation-breeding purposes.”

The 20mm-long frogs are classed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning they face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

A programme devised to protect golden mantellas and all other amphibians in Madagascar was set up in 2006. The strategy aims to equip local conservationists with the skills needed to establish safety-net populations of amphibians in captivity, out of the reach of a killer fungus that has devastated amphibian populations worldwide.

Madagascar is one of the only places in the world where the deadly chytrid fungus – a disease which thickens the frogs’ skin and prevents the movement of fluids, causing a chance of heart failure – does not currently exist. However experts believe it is only a matter of time before the fungus arrives there.

Dr Garcia said: “Amphibians already face lots of threats, most notably from the destruction of their habitat. However the chytrid fungus could be the last nail in the coffin. It threatens most of the wild amphibian species around the globe with extinction and it’s probably the first time ever that a disease has threatened to wipe out an entire class of animals.

“That’s why it’s vitally important to buy more time and give the species a lifeline until the threat of chytrid can be resolved.

“Once we’ve assessed how effective the tagging method is on the zoo’s ambassador group, if it proves to be the success that we think it will be, we’ll deploy this method in Madagascar with wild populations.

“We have already collaborated with organisations in Madagascar to help to set-up captive-breeding centres which are now successfully promoting the species. If we can tag groups of frogs in this way before we release them, then we’ll be able to track where they go and what their survival rate is.

“This process could play a very important part in their long-term survival.”

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Common frogs, video

This video is about common frogs during mating season in the Netherlands.

Carl Derks made the video.

‘Extinct’ Costa Rican frog rediscovered

This video is called Panamanian Golden FrogAtelopus varius zeteki.

From Wildlife Extra:

Extinct Costa Rican frog rediscovered

Extinct frog makes a comeback

November 2013: According to a paper published in Amphibia-Reptilia, a critically endangered harlequin toad believed to be extinct has been found breeding in a tract of highland forest in Costa Rica. Atelopus varius, known as the ‘Halloween frog’ because of its striking orange and black markings, was once quite common from central Costa Rica to western Panama. However, the population began to collapse from the 1980s onwards – probably caused by the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus that has killed off many amphibians around the world.

Considered extinct by 1996, there was a brief flicker of hope for the Halloween frog in 2004, when a population was discovered in south western Costa Rica. However, subsequent studies failed to find any more. This time around, researchers have uncovered a significant population on a private reserve within the wider La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, located near the border with Panama. The authors of the paper, led by Jose F. Gonzalez-Maya of the Sierra to Sea Institute & ProCAT International in Mexico and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, believe the find offers fresh hope for other species presumed to be extinct in Costa Rica.

See also here.

Australian lizards, frog new species discoveries

This video from Queensland, Australia says about itself:

Unique biodiversity of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve

2 July 2013

Sign the petition to help us Save Steve’s Place here.

This amazing footage features some of the unique biodiversity on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.

The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is a conservation property and a tribute to Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.

The 135,000 ha property, in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, is home to a set of important spring fed wetlands which provide a critical water source to threatened habitat, provide permanent flow of water to the Wenlock River, and is home to rare and vulnerable plants and wildlife.

Currently the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is being threatened by strip mining.

UPDATE: Campbell Newman, the Premier of Queensland, Australia, has promised the Steve Irwin Reserve on Cape York will be protected forever from mining under new legislation: here.

From RT:

Australia’s ‘lost world’ dazzles with new species

October 28, 2013 12:57

A remote mountain range in northern Australia just gave the world three new species after sitting in isolation for millions of years – including a ‘primitive-looking’ gecko. The scientists are excited for a return, hopeful of uncovering more new species.

We now know of a peculiar leaf-tailed gecko, a golden skink lizard and a brown-spotted yellow frog – none of them previously seen.

The expedition carried out by Conrad Hoskin from James Cook University and a film crew from National Geographic was to a difficult-to-reach and previously unexplored part of the Cape York Peninsula, which previously had only been subjected to lowland studies of impassable boulder fields.

The area is covered with tons of giant black granite boulders extending vertically for hundreds of meters and the result of nature’s furious prehistoric natural processes. But atop the mountain range, recently captured by satellites, sits a rainforest previously only explored by satellites.

Mere days upon arrival, Hoskin and his crew stumbled upon not one – but three new species at the same time. “The top of Cape Melville is a lost world. Finding these new species up there is the discovery of a lifetime — I’m still amazed and buzzing from it,” Hoskin, a tropical biologist by trade, told AFP.

“Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we’ve explored pretty well,” he continued, adding that a few other interesting things were uncovered that may be new to science – but declined to comment further.

Of the three new species the gecko fascinated the team the most. It was described as a “primitive-looking”, 20cm creature that is a nod to an era when rainforests were far more widespread in Australia. The pre-historic reptile also has huge eyes, with a long slender body, but all in all a very different animal to its relatives.

“The second I saw the gecko I knew it was a new species. Everything about it was obviously distinct,” he said.

The newfound Leaf-tailed Gecko names Saltuarius eximius by Hoskin as the findings were publicized in the international journal Zootoxa.

As far as differences with close relatives go, the skink is also very notable, as it displays very distinct characteristics from its geographical neighbor in the rainforests to the south.

The newly-discovered frog is creative in its use of the surrounding terrain. Because frogs require water for eggs to develop, the frog leaves them in between the moist areas of the giant boulders, far from ideal – but it works: in the absence of water, the tadpole develops fully within the egg, before hatching.

Also on the research team was a National Geographic photographer and Harvard University researcher Tim Laman, who relayed his amazement at how such discoveries are still taking place.

“What’s really exciting about this expedition is that in a place like Australia, which people think is fairly well explored, there are still places like Cape Melville where there are all these species to discover,” Laman said, adding that “there’s still a big world out there to explore.”

The team is happy at the prospect of discovering even more new species as they plan to return in a matter of months. They mentioned the possibility of new species of snails, spiders and, surprisingly enough – small mammals.

“All the animals from Cape Melville are incredible just for their ability to persist for millions of years in the same area and not go extinct. It’s just mind-blowing,” Hoskin concluded.

Rare Horned Lizards of Sri Lanka Revealed: here.

For those who discover new species, the prospect of their science being used to poach the species is a strange one: here.

African frog research

From QUEST in the USA:

Captive Breeding Program May Ensure Survival for African Frogs

Post by for on Aug 23, 2013

Click PLAY to hear mating calls from Cameroonian frogs in quarantine at Cal Academy: here.

On a recent June evening, herpetologist David Blackburn of the California Academy of Sciences was knee-deep in a west African lake hoping to capture a critically endangered frog.

In the cold, clear water of Cameroon’s Lake Oku, hundreds of brown and gray frogs with webbed feet were paddling around looking for food.

The Lake Oku clawed frog, found nowhere else but in this lake, is like other frogs across the globe that are fighting for survival.

Thousands of frog species worldwide are losing habitat due to deforestation and an amphibian disease caused by a type of fungus called “chytrid fungus.” The fungus grows on the frogs’ skin and causes sloughing skin and extreme lethargy. The changes to the frogs’ skin can be deadly, because frogs absorb water, salts and other nutrients through their skin.

More than a third of the world’s amphibians are threatened with extinction. The disease is a leading cause of frog population declines worldwide.

Researcher Rebecca Tarvin joined Blackburn's team to collect novel data on African frogs' secretions to determine whether they have chemical defenses in their skins

Researcher Rebecca Tarvin joined Blackburn’s team to collect novel data on African frogs’ secretions to determine whether they have chemical defenses in their skins

“Frogs are the canaries in the coal mine,” said Tom Smith, director of the Center for Tropical Research at the University of California – Los Angeles. “They tell us about the health of ecosystems like no other organism. When their populations decline it’s time to pay attention because what is affecting frogs may ultimately affect us.”

As part of an expedition to the mountains of northern Cameroon this summer, Blackburn led a group of students and colleagues to collect the clawed frog and other species.

The researchers hoped the fragile amphibians would survive the 10,000-mile journey back to San Francisco where the team will breed the species in captivity at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

By breeding the amphibians and learning about the frogs’ biology and reproduction habits, Blackburn and his team expect to gain key insights that could help save the frogs – and other species like them – in the future.

“We know so little about some of these species,” Blackburn said. “We’d like to figure out what it would take to be able to breed these frogs in captivity should they suddenly become under serious threat in the only place they’re known to occur.”

If an invasive species or predator entered the lake, it would be difficult for scientists to save the frogs because they don’t fully understand their lifecycle and what they need in order to survive.

Blackburn and his team took video of their expedition. As he knelt close to the water and bagged 25 frogs, he said, “the clock started ticking.”

“Once they are out of the lake, we want them back at the Academy in clean and cool water as soon as possible.”

Bamboutos camp

While Blackburn’s team surveyed frogs in the highlands of Cameroon, they camped in the Bamboutos Mountains, a region with several endemic frog species.

In addition to the clawed frog, Blackburn and his colleagues also collected four other species: Riggenbach’s Reed Frog, Bamenda Reed Frog, Rio Benito Long-fingered Frog and the Black Long-fingered Frog.

Three of the species they brought back, including the clawed frogs, are considered threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The tiny frogs, which are roughly the size of a quarter, were fed a diet of fish or termites before they were placed in a box aboard an international flight bound for San Francisco.

“In some cases, we had the frogs for two weeks before we traveled back so we had to feed them in the field,” said Cal Academy Senior Biologist Brian Freiermuth. “One of the things we actually did was use termites; we found nests and could break them open and feed the frogs. Termites are actually really high in fat so it’s good if you want to fatten up an animal.”

After more than 30 hours in transit, 54 of the 56 captured frogs survived and now sit in quarantine at the California Academy of Sciences.

About 60 percent of the frogs tested positive for chytrid fungus, which Blackburn said he expected based on his studies of the same species in 2011.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me to find [the fungus] in the frogs that we brought back,” Blackburn said. “It just reiterates why our work is so important.”

From late August to early September, the frogs will be treated with a fungicide that will work to clear the disease. After that, Blackburn and his team will begin breeding these species as Academy staff build an exhibit in the facility’s aquarium so the public can finally meet the frogs.

“One huge part of our goal was public awareness,” Blackburn said. “We really can’t conserve what we don’t know. I’m excited that we can celebrate biodiversity at the Academy’s aquarium. That diversity is threatened and it’s exactly what we’re hoping to conserve.”

New frog species discovery in Papua New Guinea

This video is called Feet in the Mud: Calling Frogs in Papua New GuineaConservation International (CI).

From Wildlife Extra:

Three tiny new frog species discovered in Papua New Guinea

3 new species of tiny frogs from the remarkable region of Papua New Guinea

September 2013. Three tiny new species of frogs have been discovered in Papua New Guinea. Dr Fred Kraus, of the University of Michigan, who in 2011 in Zookeys described the world’s smallest frogs Paedophryne dekot and Paedophryne verrucosa, now adds another 3 species from the genus Oreophryne to the remarkable diversity of this region.

The three new species Oreophryne cameroni, Oreophryne parkopanorum and Oreophryne gagneorum are all rather minute, with total body lengths of around 20 mm. These tiny frogs are still substantially larger than the species that claimed the smallest frog prize in 2011. Paedophryne dekot and Paedophryne verrucosa are only half of the length of the three new additions to the frog diversity of Papua New Guinea, with an astonishingly small body size ranging between 8-9 mm.

The subfamily to which the new species belong is largely restricted to New Guinea and its satellite islands. Of the constituent genera, Oreophryne is presently one of the largest within the Papuan Region.

More discoveries due

“Although the description of these new species now brings to seven the number of Oreophryne species reported from the north-coast region of New Guinea, the presence from these areas of additional specimens of uncertain identity suggests that additional species likely await description,” explains Dr Kraus about the diversity of the genus within the region. “I have at least a dozen more new Oreophryne species remaining to be described from this region, and large portions of this terrain system remain unsurveyed.”

The frogs are described in the latest issue of Zookeys.

Frog listens with its mouth, new discovery

This video says about itself:

The frog that hears with its MOUTH: Amphibian once thought to be deaf uses cavity

Sep 2, 2013

French scientists have solved the mystery of how one of the world’s smallest frogs can croak and hear other amphibians without possessing an eardrum.

Gardiner’s frogs from the Seychelles islands, which are just one centimetre long, were thought to be deaf, but the research revealed they actually hear sounds through their mouths.

Using X-rays, the scientists discovered the frogs’ mouths act as a resonator or amplifier for the frequencies ‘spoken’ by the species.

From the BBC:

3 September 2013 Last updated at 01:09 GMT

Tiny Gardiner’s frog listens with its mouth

By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists have discovered how one of the world’s smallest frogs is able to hear with its mouth.

The tiny, earless Gardiner’s frog was assumed to be deaf.

But this study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that it uses its mouth cavity to convey sound signals to its brain.

The discovery solves the mystery of why the earless frog produces loud, high-pitched squeaks.

The diminutive frogs, which live in the forests of the Seychelles, have no middle ear region at all, meaning they have no resonating eardrum.

Researchers had therefore assumed that the animals had no way to amplify and transmit sound waves from the environment into the inner ear and, via nerve cells, to the brain.

But this research revealed that the species defied those assumptions.

The scientists made recordings of the frogs’ calls and played them back to wild frogs in order to observe their behaviour.

Justin Gerlach from the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles and a member of the research team, explained that the frog’s call was “one of the characteristic noises in the forest”.

“It’s a very loud high-pitched squeak,” he told BBC News.

The playback experiments showed that the frogs were able to hear these squeaks.

“If you play the call, they respond,” explained Dr Gerlach.

“Either they change position – they may move to face where the call is coming from – or quite often they will call in response.”

Lead researcher Renaud Boistel from the French National Centre for Scientific Research added: “It’s very funny actually; [the frogs would] even attack the loud speaker.”

Resonating mouth

The next step was to find out how the frogs were able to hear the sound.

To investigate this, the team used highly sensitive X-ray imaging techniques at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble.

This allowed them to examine the frog’s anatomy in fine detail and and work out which body parts might play the role of the middle ear – transmitting sound wave signals via nerves to the brain.

The team produced simulations of how the frog’s head responded to sound waves of the same frequency as the frog’s high-pitched call. This confirmed that, at those frequencies, the frogs’ mouth cavity resonated like the body of a guitar – amplifying the sound.

Gardiner’s frogs have also evolved much thinner and fewer layers of tissue between their mouth cavity and inner ear. This allows sound waves to be more effectively transmitted to the “labyrinth” of fluid in the frogs’ head and then onto the brain via nerve cells.

Dr Boistel said: “This combination of a [resonating] mouth cavity and bone conduction allows Gardiner’s frogs to perceive sound effectively without use of a middle ear.”

He added that he hoped the discovery of this novel hearing mechanism could be applied to help certain types of human deafness.

Endangered and isolated

Gardiner’s frogs only live in the Seychelles.

“They’re cut off on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which makes them one of the most geographically isolated frogs in the world,” explained Dr Gerlach. “And they’ve been isolated there since Seychelles split from India 65 million years ago.”

The species is listed as endangered, primarily because its habitat is being degraded by fire, invasive species, and human activity including agriculture and tourism.

Dr Gerlach said: “The possible extinction of these frogs would mean the loss of 65 million years of remarkable evolution: not only are their hearing systems unusual, but they are also among the smallest frogs in the world.”

See also here.

This computer animation sequence reveals the interior structure and anatomy of the head of Gardiner’s frog. Credit R. Boistel/CNRS.

New poison dart frog discovered in Guyana

Allobates amissibilis sp. nov., newly discovered micro-endemic frog species. Photo courtesy of M. Hoelting and R. Ernst/Senckenberg


New poison dart frog discovered in ‘Lost World

July 19, 2013

Scientists have described a new species of poison dart frog after discovering it during a study to determine the impact of tourism on biodiversity in a tract of rainforest known as “The Lost World” in Guyana.

The scientists named the frog Allobates amissibilis — in Latin, “that may be lost” — in recognition of its home, which was the set for British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s 1912 book, The Lost World. The frog was discovered near Turu Falls, a waterfall at the foot of the Iwokrama Mountains in Central Guyana.

According to the Senckenberg Nature Research Society, the intent of the study was to investigate populations of another frog, the Hoogmoed’s harlequin frog (Atelopus hoogmoedi), to determine whether it might be impacted by planned ecotourism development in the region. While the researchers were conducting their survey, they came across the thumbnail-sized frog, which they couldn’t identify. Subsequent analysis showed it to be an undescribed species.

Allobates amissibilis is now the third Allobates species know from Guyana. Like other poison dart frogs, it derives its toxicity from the ants, mites, and other invertebrates on which it feeds. The species is thought to be a “micro-endemic” — found in only a small area of habitat.

CITATION: Kok, P.J.R., Hölting, M., Ernst, R. (in press 2013) A third microendemic to the Iwokrama Mountains of central Guyana: a new “cryptic” species of Allobates Zimmerman and Zimmerman, 1988 (Anura: Aromobatidae). Organisms Diversity and Evolution. Online first DOI: 1010.1007/s13127-013-0144-4

Also on this: Lost World Ecotourism Analysis Leads To New Frog Species Discovery.

See also here. And here.

High-living frogs hurt by remote oil roads in the Amazon: here.

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Australian frogs saved by app

This video says about itself:

The Rough Frog (Cyclorana verrucosa) calling. This is a species of burrowing frog found in semi-arid to arid regions of Australia. It only emerges from the ground after heavy rain to mate and eat.

From Australian Geographic:

App helps separate frogs from cane toads

A new app aims to protect native frogs being mistaken for cane toads and killed at the hands of the public.

IN THE BATTLE AGAINST cane toads in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, populations of native frogs are suffering due to a case of mistaken identity.

According to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), up to two-thirds of reported cane toads are actually harmless frogs. Species such as the native giant frog (Cyclorana australis) and bumpy rocket frog (Litoria inermis) are commonly mistaken for the invasive toad.

A new app, developed by the DEC and the University of Western Australia, aims to help the public distinguish between frog and toad to avoid mix-ups.

Associate professor Jan Dook at the University of Western Australia, who co-developed the app, says it is the juvenile cane toads in particular that resemble some species of native frog.

Professor Rick Shine, a biologist at the University of Sydney, says casual methods for killing cane toads have become accepted practice in some places in Australia, including the Kimberley.

Rick says that while drivers are likely to aim for cane toads in their vehicles, “there’s a very high error rate in identification… it’s very easy for people to get it wrong.”

The app details visible diagnostic features such as the colour, size, and shape of cane toads and native frogs found in the Kimberley, to encourage people to be sure of what they are targeting. – Karen Young

Download the app from iTunes here.